In her accomplished projects featuring, as their integral part, video in a specially arranged space, the artist combines elements of architecture with the visual arts and theatre. Despite her use of varied media, her works are minimalist, at times so much so that at first glance they seem barely visible. Meticulously premeditated, they are striking for their precision encompassing both time and space. The essence of her works may be described as the blurring of borders between art disciplines, as a striving for the perception and absorption with various senses of the atmosphere of fear and anxiety, of states of suspension, understatement or critical moments. The artist treats space as a sculpture built of light that may be entered. Like fragments of history, its divisions guide the viewer to the successive “stages of initiation”. Angelika Markul’s installations initiate a play with the viewer’s perception in two ways. On the one hand, they show the world of the imagination blended with reality. They confuse one to a degree that it is hard explicitly to tell the truth from artistic fiction. On the other hand, thanks to the three-dimensional set-up and the appropriate light conditions, they upset a sense of spatial comfort in the viewer.
As one of the latest projects illustrating the manner and quality of Angelika Markul’s work, there is the Pantagruel installation, 2006, prepared for the Pantagruel Syndrome exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’ Arte Contemporanea in Turin, Italy. It features a video image projected on the ceiling of an interior that is disproportionately high in comparison with its area. The whole is reminiscent of part of an intestinal tract while the construction of the film and the presentation system, governed by the slowed-down rhythm, situate the viewer within the pulsating stomach of Pantagruel, the hero of François Rabelais’s epic. The endless process of the assimilation and evacuation of food, overpowering the viewer with its monotony, repetitiveness and the scale of projection, is horrifying and fascinating at the same time. The nourishment and excretion of the huge ‘consuming machine’ is the functioning pattern of all organisms that have to eat in order to live. The Pantagruel’s case is complicated inasmuch as the question arises whether the insane bulimic cycle in itself is not the only purpose of the machine that has no other needs.
The artist’s projects generally feature references to biology, to the world of animals and plants. Ma Nature, 2005, a video installation at the J’en rêve exhibition at the Foundation Cartier in Paris highlighted an exotic plant growing in the artificial conditions created by Angelika Markul. Viewed from the perspective of the moist soil piled up in a small interior, the whole was fascinating for the image, smell and the oneiric atmosphere of contact with the mysterious powers of nature.
Featuring in a number of her works, there are animals, watched and filmed by the attentive observer. The subject is most often fight for survival, mechanisms of social co-existence, domination over another’s life, and, ultimately, death. Whether considered literally or metaphorically, they always refer to man. An anthropomorphic leaning may be observed in as varied undertakings as the film on the raven tossing a rat in the air (the rule of force) or the fly in a “trap”. (Both were first shown at the ARC / Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2005 as elements of the Choses vues cycle.) Held by the wing, the fly is seeking to wrench itself free while an exchange of opinions is heard in the background. “It’s bound to die.” A moment of hesitation follows. “No.” The potential for evil, manifest for instance in animal torture by children, is also present in the artist’s other works. Inspired to an equal degree by the world of nature, the atmosphere of places bearing a brand of the past, and stories heard in childhood, Angelika Markul’s work is intriguing and stimulating to the imagination. At times horrifying, at other time poetic like fairy tales and legends, it touches on the most significant aspects of human existence.
Angelika Markul (b. Szczecin, Poland, 1977, lives and works in Paris) studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris under the supervision of Christian Boltanski.